California tribe at odds with border officials, wall construction crews

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that federal officials have issued waivers for the laws designed to protect Native American ancestral sites.

BOULEVARD, Calif. (Border Report) — A Native American tribe from eastern San Diego County continues to interrupt the on-going border wall construction in this part of California.

For weeks, they have forced the postponement of planned explosions meant to clear the way for the border barrier ordered by President Trump.

They are members of the Kumeyaay Nation, which has lived in the region for more than 10,000 years.

Members of the Kumeyaay Nation gather near border wall construction site in Boulevard, Calif.
(Salvador Rivera/Border Report)
Crews working on portions of the border wall near Boulevard, Calif. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

“We’re out here again to protect our ancestors, protect our culture,” Cynthia Parada said.

Parada and others believe crews are working on former burial and cultural grounds. But this is something the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers dispute, saying they have surveyed the area and failed to find any evidence of human remains or cultural materials.

This is something Parada doesn’t believe.

“We went on a site visit yesterday and we found multiple artifacts,” she said. “We found midden soil which is a sign that there was actually human remains in that area after they had already graded and then watered it, and that’s what we don’t want is desecration, we let them know but they don’t care.”

Unlike other visits to the site, today they were not allowed to get near the border or work areas.

Parada said this would not prevent them from returning again and again.

“We are not going to give up, we’re going to keep doing it slowing up the work and we’re going start taking legal action,” she said.

Several laws have been passed to protect Native American ancestral sites, including the National Historic Preservation Act of 1996 and the Native American Graves Protection Act of 1990. They were meant to determine if a cemetery property can be shown to be part of a Native American gravesite. And if federal projects are having a negative impact on historical or archaeological, those projects may not go forward.

However, the Department of Homeland Security has issued waivers for both laws — and dozens more — to expedite construction of the border wall.

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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